Thursday, April 28, 2011


So...obviously I'm terrible at updating blogs. So in the interest of possibly sucking less, I'm merging this blog into my running blog, and that blog will just be my blog of general stuff. We'll...see.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Still here!

It's been ages since I've posted, I know. I'm bad about that. Basically my job ate my life and I couldn't take it anymore, so I got a new one, which has been a vast improvement. But even with all that, we've still been hard at work on the house.

Here's a recap of the projects we've tackled:
  • The kitchen: Mostly finished now, but we still have to drywall over the hole in the ceiling where the fluorescent light panel used to be. Mark's parents as well as his older brother and his partner came down from Michigan to help us with the bulk of the painting, and we had an electrician in to redo the lighting.
  • The yard: We built a DIY fence out of premade 6' x 8' panels. My parents came up to help out with that. It was very hard work, but endlessly rewarding--we're enjoying playing out in the yard with Rudy, and also appreciate being able to simply let him out in the yard to do his business on colder mornings. The next phase of that project is to reseed the decimated lawn.
  • Furniture: We did finally receive our tax credit, and along with the fence, a healthy extra mortgage payment toward the principle, and a shot of life into our savings, we bought some furniture: a sectional couch, a loveseat, some chairs, end tables, a coffee table, a seven-piece dining set, and a three-piece set for the dining nook.
  • Curtains: More to do here, but we put in some nicer-looking curtain rods and an insulated linen panel for the glass door in the den.
  • The exercise room: We had been saving toward buying a treadmill to support our running habit, but when I injured my knee in January, it became more important to have a convenient means of cross training. So instead we went for a combination bike and elliptical trainer, which is now saving my sanity by allowing me to work out. It was nowhere near as costly as a treadmill, but it does set our treadmill dream back a bit.
So that's quite a healthy amount of improvements in less than a year's time. We've definitely plateaued a bit since the tax credit money ran out, but we still have plenty more we'd like to do in the near future:
  • Garden: Besides reseeding the back lawn, I'd like to really get the garden going this spring. I'd like a vegetable/herb garden, and also some flowers and shrubs just to look nice. I barely know where start there. But a bed here, a few plants there--whatever I do, it'll be better than the bare dirt and weed-choked beds I have now!
  • Painting: Strip the wallpaper from the master bedroom, the living room, and the dining room, and paint throughout the house.
  • Floor: Get rid of the carpet in the living room and den, and replace with a hardwood floor. This is not so much a near future thing--we have to save for a while to get this done.
  • Treadmill: I don't much like running on treadmills, but sometimes they are great--for hill workouts and speedwork and also for running after dark (although running with Rudy has partly removed that as an issue for me). Mark actually prefers to run on the treadmill.
I'll try to post again soon with some pictures.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A new addition to the family.

So, after a tremendously busy July (vacation to Maine, wedding in Iowa, and a 100-mile overnight relay race, along with mundane things like work and housework/yardwork), I am finally back and ready to tackle some house projects!

We could have bought a new loveseat or chair for the living room during July, but instead, we brought home this guy:

We have been wanting to get a dog for some time, and now that our busy July is over and the rest of the summer/fall are relatively quiet, it seemed like the perfect time. Meet Rudy! He is a 13-month old German shepherd/border collie mix who we brought home from the animal shelter just over a week ago. He's a wonderful boy, just as rambunctious as you would expect from a guy who's barely over being a puppy. He's quite good around people, but very reactive around other dogs, something we need to work on. I don't know if he's scared or just wants to play, but it involves lots of barking.

Other than that though, he's really a remarkable guy. Loves to run (which suits me just fine!), and learns very quickly. We've already taught him Sit, Lie Down, Off, and Roll Over. I'm working on Look at Me, and also to give us some sort of signal when he wants to go out. I want to teach him Speak for that, but it's hard because he almost never barks (only when there's another dog in sight!).

He's certainly not without his problems, though. Besides the dog-reactivity issue, he is a dedicated chewer, tends to nip or "mouth" us (like a bite but gentle...still, not a good thing to encourage), and likes to jump on people. Normal puppy habits that he's hanging on to. Considering that he came in as a stray and has been through Lord knows what in his short life, and has only been with us a week, he's doing extremely well.

Rudy has certainly been keeping us busy, but we are still looking forward to our kitchen makeover. Today we ordered the cabinet hardware. This weekend we'll be getting paint and other supplies. We've decided on a lovely soft shade of light green for the cabinets, and it's looking like a soft golden-yellow for the breakfast nook wall (it was between that and a light blue-gray, but we decided we wanted a warmer, brighter kitchen). Can't wait to post before-and-after photos!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A kitchen makeover in the offing.

We are putting a lot of house projects and furniture purchases off until we get our tax credit, but we do have a few things we'd like to accomplish sooner. When my in-laws (Joan and Mike) offered to pitch in on a weekend project when they come to visit in August, we narrowed down our projects to a few possibilities:
  • Kitchen makeover. Although maybe one day, in some sunny, distant future in which we have lots of extra cash and time on our hands, we'd love to completely redo the kitchen with new countertops, cabinets, appliances, etc., in reality there's absolutely nothing wrong with what we have now. But one issue we're having is that the place seems very dark all the time, partly due to the fact that both windows face the shady backyard. So for now, painting the dark wood cabinets a lighter color is our solution.
  • Garden touch-up. The garden undeniably needs some help. Lots of weeds and unknown stuff to take out and replace with some nice, friendly perennials. I have more ambitious plans, but in the near future I just want to replace the existing weedy flowerbeds with something more pleasing.
  • Sunroom floor redo. We ripped up a corner of the carpet to reveal what appears to be concrete. After reading about the possibilities for staining or painting a concrete sunroom floor on this blog, we immediately adopted it as one of our near future to-dos.
  • Wallpaper removal/painting. The living and dining rooms need serious help. The wallpaper choices are better in these two rooms than in the master bedroom, but I'm just not a wallpaper fan. I am looking forward to having a clean, uniform look to the walls. The master bedroom, even though it is worse, can wait.
So, after throwing different ideas around, our frontrunner for the August project is...the kitchen cabinets. We decided to concentrate mostly on indoor projects to help prepare the house to receive Thanksgiving guests, so it makes sense that the kitchen would receive some attention. The dining room is the obvious next choice. Hurry up, tax credit!

Here is a current picture of the kitchen.

Actually the camera's flash makes it look better than it is. See, everything's perfectly good! Just imagine that it's a little dimmer than this and you'll have our issue. I think a few coats of a nice light green, as well as new hardware, will do wonders. At least I hope it will. Here is my inspiration:

                                                    Picture courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

I especially noticed that the floor looks similar to ours, and that the green works not only with silvery/gray stainless steel, but also with yellowish/tan shades as well. We don't have stainless steel appliances now, but we might someday. We thought about painting the cabinets white, but with with the white tiles and off-white counters, we worried it would be a bit much. Another idea that I am really digging about this picture is the open cabinets. We might try removing the doors from one of the cabinets and storing all the pretty things there for show. Thanks a MILLION to Steph for sending me this link! Steph also gave us the idea of doing a bi-color thing with the cabinets, which we are definitely considering.

The only other thing to figure out is what color should the wall be in the breakfast nook? Very little actual wall in the kitchen itself, but we might give the breakfast nook a new coat of paint while we're at it. Needs some more thought, but the idea is definitely taking shape.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A compostin' we will go.

Composting is something I've always wanted to do, but just never felt like I had the space or means to do so. (Now that I've done a lot more research, I'm well aware I could easily have done a small-time operation on my apartment deck. Oops.) But, better late than never, as they say.

I've read numerous tutorials about using recycled materials to build your own compost bin, as well as window-shopped online for the "deluxe" models. Finally I just decided to jump in the middle--today we bought a 34-gallon plastic Rubbermaid bin at Target for $9.99. Mark drilled some holes in the bottom, sides, and top, and I dumped in some dirt, a mixture of brown and green leaves, and some eggshells as our first kitchen contribution. Voila:

Then I crushed up the eggshells (the smaller the pieces are, the faster and easier they break down), and mixed it all together. Then I popped the lid on. As the bin gets fuller, I'll probably have to use a small spade to keep it mixed, but for now a small garden fork does nicely.

We don't produce very much trash (most things can be recycled, especially now that Bloomington takes 3-7 plastics), and we're hoping this will cut down on our waste even more, not to mention produce some free "black gold" for the garden.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This blew my mind.

Okay, I apologize for another IRS rant. But a co-worker sent me this very timely article today. GRRRR.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The tree limbs go bye-bye.

Now, I promise I won't update every time we do a bit of yard work, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves after making our giant tree-pile into manageable chunks that the city garbage service can collect tomorrow morning. Here's what it looked like on Saturday afternoon:

We're not quiiiite done because we ran out of yard bags. But here it is now, quaking in fear from me and my saw of destruction:

I have to admit it was some nice therapy to break up all those tree limbs, very nice for working through some IRS-related rage issues. Mark was happy enough to actually strike a funny pose as well.

After years of apartment living, I still find it faintly miraculous that all we have to do is get our stuff out to the curb in the proper container with the proper tag, and it gets whisked away.

I think we had ten bags in all. Yowza.

IRS update: I called this morning for an explanation of the mysterious form. The rep, while friendly and sympathetic, was as stumped as me. Apparently when they mail these returns back, they close the file and therefore have no record of why it was rejected. I think most businesses run out of people's garages are better organized. She suggested I mail it back in. When I expressed concern that I was starting over and had no guarantee that the same thing wouldn't happen again, she suggested enclosing a letter explaining what had happened. Are they working with pencils and notebooks in this place? Couldn't she make a note in my file?!?

I was running late for work, so I gave up on her. Later that morning, I walked over to the IRS office, which is very close to my work. There, both reps pored over my paperwork. One of them was the very one who had pronounced our amended return good to go six weeks earlier. Finally they said that apparently the IRS needs further proof that we closed on April 30 (the deadline to go under contract in order to get the tax credit was April 30).

Me: Why? The closing date is right here. April 30.
Them: Well, we need more documentation. Did you bring your closing documents?
Me: I have my HUD, which is all that I was told was required.
Them: Did you bring the rest of the documents from closing?
Me: I don't know why I would have done that. Which document do you need?
Them: I don't know, just bring it all. We have to confirm that you were under contract before May 1.
Me: Look, what do you want from us? The closing date is spelled out right here. Since we closed on April 30, we were obviously under contract well before that. The deadline to close is well after April 30. I just don't understand what the issue is.
Them: The investigations office does not agree. Here is a list of further documents that you need to bring in. Just bring all that stuff in and we'll get it submitted.

I stormed out. I gathered mortgage statement, bank statements, and a pay stub showing the new address, while Mark ran over to the house to get our closing folder. He brought our entire house bundle just in case. I took the whole mess in right after lunch and dropped in on the counter (thud), saying, "Well, I'm back. I don't know what you want, so here you go, here's everything I've got." They did ask for it, after all.

The whole thing was beyond ridiculous. I mean, did they think we traveled through time in order to go under contract after May 1 and close on April 30? What a neat trick. Anyway, apparently they were able to find sufficient documentation in the book-length pile of papers. I popped out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to read while I waited for them to process it. So now it's being overnighted back to the IRS, and we're back to waiting another 8-12 weeks for our tax credit. Two hours of yard work therapy after all that crap was sorely needed!